Trump struggling to find lawyers to represent him as Mueller investigation enters critical phase

President says on Twitter lawyers are clamouring to represent him, but evidence suggests otherwise

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Monday 26 March 2018 18:00 BST
Donald Trump has seen his legal team dwindle at a key moment
Donald Trump has seen his legal team dwindle at a key moment (Reuters)

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation enters a critical phase, Donald Trump is apparently having trouble finding attorneys to represent him.

The President’s legal team is in turmoil, with a series of changes in the past week paralleling heavy turnover within the administration. A key lawyer has left and others abruptly reversed on plans to sign on.

Amid that turbulence, Mr Mueller’s probe into potential linkages between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign, having already penetrated the President’s orbit, is drawing closer to Mr Trump himself. It could soon produce a climactic interview with Mr Mueller's team.

Last week, attorney John Dowd announced he was resigning as the President’s lead lawyer in the matter. His departure reflected reported disagreement about the strategy for handling Mr Mueller’s probe.

While Mr Trump has publicly embraced the possibility of speaking with the Special Counsel, the idea is said to have generated pushback from counsellors who are wary of the President’s propensity for off-the-cuff speaking and statements that undercut or contradict previous positions. A refusal by Mr Trump to sit for an interview could set up a legal showdown, particularly if Mr Mueller subpoenas the President to appear before a grand jury.

Following close on Mr Dowd’s departure came the news that attorneys Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing would not come aboard to represent the President, as previously announced, due to conflicts of interest.

The reversal left Mr Trump with a truncated team, and there are signs the President has struggled to fill the shortage. Several potential attorneys have declined to take on Mr Trump, according to reports, and one prominent attorney with experience in high-profile political cases decided to make his lack of interest public.

“I can confirm that @gibsondunn and Theodore B. Olson will not be representing @realDonaldTrump”, attorney Ted Boutros - whose record includes repeatedly arguing landmark cases before the Supreme Court - said on Twitter.

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From the beginning, Mr Trump has dismissed Mr Mueller’s investigation as a politically tainted fishing expedition, denying allegations of collusion or personal wrongdoing even as Mr Mueller has indicted multiple former campaign aides and secured guilty pleas from two of them.

In recent days Mr Trump has intensified his attacks on the special counsel probe, reportedly against the advice of his attorneys. While his Twitter broadsides assailing the investigation are not new, he has for the first time named Mr Mueller himself as a potential interview looms.

“Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? Another Dem recently added...does anyone think this is fair”? Mr Trump tweeted four days before Mr Dowd's resignation was announced.

But despite assurances from Mr Trump’s legal team that Mr Mueller’s work would be wrapped up by last year - and a statement from Mr Dowd shortly before his exit that the Justice Department “bring an end to alleged Russia collusion investigation manufactured by” former FBI director James Comey, whom Mr Trump dismissed - the probe shows signs of deepening.

Against that backdrop the President has been adamant in rejecting the notion that he is struggling to secure adequate legal representation.

“Many lawyers and top law firms want to represent me in the Russia case”, Mr Trump wrote on Twitter over the weekend, adding that “Fame & fortune will NEVER be turned down by a lawyer, though some are conflicted”.

“I am very happy with my existing team”, the President wrote in a followup tweet. “Besides, there was NO COLLUSION with Russia, except by Crooked Hillary and the Dems”!

But Mr Trump’s political foes saw signs of a legal team in disarray.

“It is impossible to overstate the amount of incompetence it takes to not know about the conflicts before announcing the hiring of these lawyers”, former Barack Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer tweeted in response to the news about Mr diGenova and Ms Toensing.

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